A Brief Review of “Star Trek: Picard”, Episode 1

Growing up, I was addicted to Star Wars. It was a way of life for me, and as an adolescent, I defended it against anything I thought anyone might view as superior. When I was still underaged, I started working / helping out at a local comic and collectibles shop. I had been reeled into the store at the flea market by some Star Wars toys they’d had on display that I didn’t have in my collection. After a while, I developed quite a friendship with the owners, and they asked me if I wanted to do some helping out to get a discount on my comics. They were real Star Trek fans (in addition to liking Star Wars), and I spent a substantial amount of time trying to convert them to the view that Star Wars is infinitely better than Star Trek. Having admitted that I had never really seen Star Trek, though, they lent me their entirely library of the Original Series (recorded on VHS from TV), Films, and the Next Generation on professional VHS (although the last season hadn’t been broadcast yet and the sixth season hadn’t been published yet). I watched it all and was hooked. I started watching Deep Space Nine, jumping whole hog onto the Star Trek bandwagon. In the 90s it really was easier to be a Star Trek fan than a Star Wars fan: Star Trek fans at least had new things to watch; Star Wars fans only had books, of markedly varying quality. While I didn’t abandon Star Wars entirely, I developed a new love for Star Trek, first for the Next Generation, then for the greatest series, Deep Space Nine. On average, I really enjoyed the movies from the Next Generation cast (particularly First Contact, but also the others) and always hoped they’d revive the series in some capacity.

All of that should serve as a preface. I was ecstatic to hear that they were making a new series about Star Trek’s second greatest captain (seriously, if you don’t think Sisko’s best, I don’t know you base your arguments on) and was really looking forward to the series. Now it’s started, and I have some thoughts…

The Plot

The story seems exciting: Picard at odds with Star Fleet due to problems in their past; Romulans on Earth; Mars on fire; big cybernetics; ridiculous action sequences… Looks good on the surface.

I’m not quite sure if it holds up on closer scrutiny. The action sequences felt tacked on and over the top (I mean, we are talking about Star Trek, after all). The cybernetic storyline might have some promise, but it sounds like a plagerism of Blade Runner at first glance. I also wonder what Freud would make of Picard’s constant dreaming of Data. Picard’s break with Star Fleet also seems curiously irrelevant when he needs anything from Star Fleet (like the archives or the cybernetics lab). It seems awkward, but perhaps there is more to the story that they will develop in the coming episodes. The story I want to see develop most is the line about the Romulans. The ending looks like that might actually turn into something. The implied Borg aspect will hopefully be badass, and history suggests it could well be. We’ll just have to see.

So, after a single watching, I think the series shows some promise, but it didn’t overwhelm me. Still, it’s probably the best series opening for Star Trek ever (I’m looking at you, every terrible first episode of a Star Trek series…). I’m cautiously optimistic. I hope that the series doesn’t take a turn like Discovery, where after every episode I found myself asking “why did they just do all of that again?” and where at the beginning of episode I thought, “what were they doing again, and what did last week have to do with it?” Hopefully, this show will be cogent.

The Visuals

The aesthetic is great. Everything looks great and immersive. The reimaging of the Golden Gate Bridge was awesome. I found the opening credits beautiful, if somewhat boring musically.

The wobbly camera was really distracting. The whole time, I felt like the camera operator was always about to collapse any second. Seriously, can’t we just have a stable image when Picard is sitting on a bench chatting? Is the jostling really necessary?

The Acting

I love Patrick Stewart. Really. I can’t think of anything that I’ve seen him in where I didn’t like his performance (perhaps, “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”, but it’s been so long, I couldn’t say for sure). In this revived role as Picard, I didn’t feel like he was at his best. Again, I hope (and presume) that this will develop in a positive direction, since Patrick Stewart is just a treasure and amazing. And Picard is a great character. The end.

My Conclusion

Cautiously optimistic? I feel like I need to watch the first episode again, like I missed something the first time around. I’m not sure I did. In fact, I assume I didn’t. And that’s what worries me. I really want it to be good, and I’m sure that I’ll be watching the next episodes. Seriously, I’m an addict, and, even if it’s crap, I’ll probaly watch it religiously to the end.

<begin rant> One last note: I have to watch it internationally, which means Amazon Prime Video. It’s a service that I think is okay, but does have a seriously annoying problem: the subtitles and on-screen notes about location, etc. are in German, even if the show is running in English, even if the subtitles are set to English. It’s crap! How does this still happen in the twenty-first century? </End rant>

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2 Comments

  1. This looks so promising, but at the same time, the flaws that you note stood out to me in the trailer–it looks like the producers might possibly be confusing “modernization” with “let’s significantly dumb this down for the audience,” which I hope doesn’t end up being the case.
    This is currently only available in the U.S. on something called CBS All Access, and I can’t get myself to add a new streaming service for one show, even a Star Trek show with Picard in it…unless I know it’s good, so we’re gonna have to keep in touch on this one. The shaky cam you mentioned sounds particularly strange…are they trying to take a visual page from the BSG reboot from the 00’s?
    Even though Deep Space Nine started off just as badly as all the other Star Trek shows, the immediate reveal that Sisko is (highly) ambivalent toward Picard, even though the reason he is ambivalent toward Picard is for something completely outside Picard’s control, made Sisko immediately endearing to me.
    Also…strange coincidence, but this weekend, for the first time since we met 19 years ago, I realized that another real-life person that I’m friends thinks Deep Space Nine is the best Star Trek show. I didn’t even know the guy liked Star Trek, but he happened to be in earshot when I mentioned to an acquaintance that DS9 was superior to all Star Trek, and he jumped in with gusto. I started quizzing him just to make sure he didn’t think I said “Hey, y’all, kingcake time,” and he actually knew character relationships, key episodes, and whatnot. I’ve been in a DS9 desert for a long enough time to think that you and I just dreamed that whole show up–had so many conversations go brick wall with “Oh, nice, you like Star Trek! Have you seen Deep Space Nine?”
    I just realized the whole show is on Hulu, and I’m at the point where most of the non-major plot revelations will feel fresh again. Probably getting near time for a full rewatch. Still need to watch What We Left Behind. I also want to rewatch the 4th-7th Doctors run on Doctor Who (like ’74-’89), since I gave up on the reboot three or four years ago, and I’m starting to forget plot points from those seasons, too.

    Reply

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